There are many times in your life when your work can become your primary focus. This is especially true if other people are reliant on your work, if your organization is understaffed, or if you are simply passionate about your work.
But even these reasons aren’t enough to allow your work to negatively impact your personal life. As it brings in the money that you live off and use to support your life and family, it can sometimes seem as though work is the only important thing in your life.
When in reality, work is simply one part of your life. Whether you are a healthcare professional saving lives daily or working as a data entry assistant, your work should not stop you from enjoying your life.
To help you rebalance your life, here are some top tips for establishing and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Schedule in Personal Time
If you really struggle to step away from your work, then simply adding in some personal time can help. This can be written in your diary that you will see a movie over the weekend. Or plan to go out to dinner during the week.
Planning in personal time will remind you to actually do it. Rather than think that you should be practicing “self-care”. Only to keep putting it off until you’re less busy. When we do this, the result is often that we always feel as though we’re busy. And that taking time for ourselves is selfish.
So, adding it to your planner or diary just makes it another item on your to-do list. This is almost like sneaking in some rest so that the voice in your head telling you that you’re lazy doesn’t quite notice.
Intentionally Interrupt Your Focus
This might sound counterproductive. But if you are the sort of person who will settle down to work and not look up for ten hours, then you need to give your brain a break. It’s important to allow your mind to drift sometimes.
In fact, noticing when you become distracted is a natural way of regulating your breaks. If you start to think about something other than work, don’t simply bat the thoughts away. Allow your mind to wander for a minute or two. Then get back to your work.
This will also be helpful in terms of productivity. You will have taken your mind off your task for only a little while. So your work will not have been detrimentally impacted. And you will be able to come back to it refreshed.
One reason why some people have a poor work-life balance is that they never feel as though their work is good enough. If you keep reworking something that is already fine, then you are wasting precious time.
This is not only time that you could spend on other tasks. But also time you could be spending on other things that you enjoy doing. Making a sweet memory with your child, spending the evening with your partner, or going for a drink with a friend is much more important than making sure one line in a report is perfect.
Remember: you are doing this work because you are competent enough to do it. So do it to the best of your ability. Send it off. And then go about your life. In a week or so, you will likely have forgotten about a certain chart that wasn’t exactly the right size and alignment on a document. But you won’t forget the memories you make with your loved ones.
Learn to Stop Prioritize
This doesn’t mean that you should stop prioritizing tasks at work. But instead, stop seeing work as the most important factor in your life. There are many other factors that are just as important.
This includes work, family, sleep, a social life, and more. Sure, one of these supports the others. But that doesn’t make it any more important.
A lot of people view these factors of life as a pyramid. With the most important (often work) at the top. But this is not healthy. Instead, all of these factors should be considered in a balanced way. So, instead of seeing everything else as secondary to work. Remember that your family, especially your partner and any children you have, are just as, if not more, important than work.
Remember the Rule of 8
When trying to balance out your time, remember the rule of 8. This is “8 hours work, 8 hours play, 8 hours sleep”. (The original line ended with “8 shillings a day”, but that isn’t quite relevant anymore.)
The rule of 8 will allow you to consider the balance of your day. Dividing a 24-hour day into work, sleep, and personal time will allow you to be more organized. So, if you’re being paid for 8 hours of work, only work for 8 hours.
Then, go out with your friends, play with your children, or curl up on the couch with a movie. None of these things are “lazy” simply because they aren’t considered “productive”.
“Productivity” is a difficult word. We can all acknowledge that it refers to producing work. But productivity doesn’t always mean working at your desk. Rest, socializing, and taking care of your physical and mental health will aid productivity.
If you don’t take care of your life outside of work, then you won’t have the energy or focus to thrive in your job role. So, if it helps, the next time you feel guilty for spending an evening with friends, remember that this is a type of productivity.
This is especially useful if you have an important job. Such as working in healthcare or the emergency services. These are especially difficult jobs to switch off from. But, just remember, when you care for yourself you will be able to do a better job. So you will be helping people more by giving them your absolute best.
Be Careful Working from Home
Working from home is the norm for many people. But this can often blur the line between work and home. If you have the space, it’s definitely a good idea to create a home office. This should be a room that is only used when working. So you won’t feel as though you are living in an office.
If you work at your kitchen table or even on the couch, make sure to pack away your work at the end of the day. Even leaving your laptop on the table can make you conscious of work.
Working from home can often result in a better work-life balance. This is because it means people can spend more time with their children, eat a better-prepared lunch, and have more free time due to the lack of commute.
But, this can go the other way and, if you are distracted regularly while working, you can feel as though you need to make up for it. This will usually be by working longer hours. The Flexible Professional has a wide range of articles about working from home. Including a super useful piece on working with the TV on.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
This is a phrase that has become popular in recent years. Hard work is always commended. And this is a good thing. But making sure that you work efficiently and effectively doesn’t always mean putting in long hours.
If you find a way to get your work done more efficiently, then you should do it. This is especially true if you work with computers, software, and/or data. Finding formulas and functions that allow you to skip trawling through spreadsheets or writing out long lines of code should always be used.
This isn’t lazy nor is it allowing a computer to do your job. It simply allows you to spend your time more efficiently and effectively. And allows you to be more productive. So you won’t spend unnecessary hours working your way through data that eventually blurs before your eyes.
If you receive an email, it can be tempting to reply as soon as you can. Especially if it only requires a short reply. But replying instantly sends the message that you are always available to be contacted. And this just isn’t the case. Even if you are at work, you can still not respond to people when you’re busy.
This sends the message that you will take the time to read, digest, and then send a considered and thoughtful reply. Rather than be constantly available whenever someone else needs you. At work, your time is still your own. So don’t let other people act as though they are entitled to your time. No matter their position within the organization.
Setting boundaries includes not replying to emails and not working during your lunch break or outside of work hours. This time is completely your own. Especially if you are not paid for your lunch break. You need to take this time away from your work. If you respond to someone in the evening or over lunch, they will begin to think that you are at their beck and call. Which you absolutely should not be.
Learn to Say No
At work, it can often feel as though you should say yes to everything asked of you. But if it requires you putting in more hours than expected, then you should say no.
Of course, you don’t have to simply say “No, I won’t do that”. There are other ways of saying no. Here are some polite responses for when you just can’t take on any more work.
- “I do not currently have capacity for this project. If you need someone with a similar skill set, I can recommend…”
- “My time is currently invested in the ______ project and I cannot commit to another project at this time. I look forward to any other opportunity to work with you in the future.”
The most important thing to remember in these situations is not to apologize. Some people say that you should never say “sorry” in a work setting, but this isn’t always the case. Women do apologize excessively at work. And there are some important cultural and social issues around this.
But it’s okay to still be polite and express regret at not being able to work with someone. Especially if you would have enjoyed the project. This can even help you if other opportunities arise in the future.
Interesting Related Article:”Parents’ work life can affect the health of children”